No matter how often we hear Tyler Childers tell the story behind the meaning of this song, we will never get tired of listening.
Tyler Childers closed out Healing Appalachia with a killer and emotional performance of “Sour Mash.” Childers took to the stage at the concert as the voice of Appalachia and shared the gut-wrenching story of how he would sing for one of his dear friends who had passed.
Childers starts his story by talking about mind-altering drugs and his song “The Heart You’ve Been Tendin'” from his Hounds album. He never realized how much weight that carried until he had a close friend dying, and he found that at the end of the road, you can only take what you have put into yourself.
Childers gets a little choked up as he continues the story…
“I had the good opportunity, the blessing to get to show that to Mike before he passed away. Me and my buddies had a real good friend that passed right before…uh, right when the album came out.
Actually, it was the day we released it, if I’m not mistaken, was the day before hospice came in. So, it was real close there. He got to hear it, and we got to go play some music for him and then we left, Sandra was playing Mike the album you said that she was going to play it for him until he left.
I don’t get to be home at all the special moments. Playing on the road, you know we miss a lot of birthdays, miss a lot of graduations, a lot of weddings, and a lot of funerals…more importantly, we miss the moments before the funerals. And, uh, I’m just really thankful that I got to be there when I did.
Instead of Mike going out of this word listening to my album, I got to sing for Mike.”
The crowd starts cheering as Childers takes a few moments to compose himself before rounding out this vulnerable story with the crowd.
“One of the biggest gigs I ever got to play…
Mike was a really good friend, he was a brother, a traveling man, he had been all over the world, man. He was a hippie… he was a moonshiner.
On the way to the hospital to be with him, I was listening to Cory Branan, who’s one of my favorite songwriters… he’s an amazing songwriter. He’s a badass guitar player and he has a song called “Sour Mash,” and I figured Mike would appreciate it.
So I didn’t really…I didn’t have an instrument with me I thought it lended itself well to an acapella number, so I’m going to leave you with this one.”
Childers then goes on to thank the crowd for listening to his story, being attentive to his telling, and being present at the benefit concert. As the unofficial face of Appalachian music, it only makes sense that Childers thanks the crowd for showing up for a night of great music that supports an even greater cause.
The lyrics of “Sour Mash” hold the perfect message for a moonshiner. You can hear the pain in his voice as he sings the words that carry so much weight for him—such a touching moment for Childers and for the legacy of his friend to live on.
“I don’t want no Beaujolais Sake, Cider, Chardonnay Keep Tequila far away You know what I’m cravin’ Ain’t Champagne all fine and chilled It’s not all rot-gut ‘shine, and swill You ask me, life’s a cask Of bitter-sweet sour mash..”
Childers naturally knocks the acapella performance out of the park, serving up a spiritual rendition of the song… the perfect ending for Healing Appalachia.
Check it out:
And here’s the original from Cory if you’re interested: